It’s a Whole New Ball Game! by Marilyn DeMartini for Healing Retreats
Tired of nursing 15 years worth of weight training “old war injuries,” from pulled hamstrings to torn shoulders and chronic, nagging aches, that are aggravated by a tough workout or run, a class called “Body Rolling” at my local yoga studio intrigued me. Anything that could help alleviate tension—since I couldn’t afford to keep the massage therapist on retainer—prompted me to investigate.
Surrounded by men and women of all shapes and sizes, I followed along as the certified Body Rolling teacher, showed how to systematically roll the body over a dense, 9″ rubber ball. In one class, I was hooked. I learned how to maneuver the ball into spaces in joints or muscles—at least where there should be spaces—and breathe into it. The a-a-a-h-h-h! sound of relief immediately followed the sometimes, o-o-o-o-o-ow! sound, as I found those knots where the muscle feels like a wad of bone, not tissue.
The principle makes sense—work the muscles from their insertion points to the end, to reeducate and lengthen them, and free the congestion caused by everyday stress, gravity—and the Smith Rack. “Go with the body—how it goes,” says Yamuna Zake, the yoga teacher who invented Body Logic, a therapy technique using pressure and traction to deal with her own muscle trauma. She then developed Body Rolling to replicate the method for self-treatment. Zake passed her methods on to yoga students and other therapists, and her international following is rapidly growing.
As she explains in her book Body Rolling – An Experiential Approach to Complete Muscle Release, “…weight lifters who work to bulk up their muscles may focus only the body of the muscle because it is the part they can see; they do not work the tendon. As they keep bulking the muscle, it shortens, putting stress on the tendons and joints… Increased bulk in muscle body without an increase in length leads to tendonitis, microfiber tendon tears, and restricted joint movement.”
“Why didn’t I know that earlier?”, I chide myself as I lay on the floor, not exactly graceful in my efforts to get the ball into my aching shoulder. But I can feel the muscle releasing, pulling away from the restriction, which Zake describes as muscles sticking to bone and other muscle.
As I listen to a CD, I enjoy the empowerment, of working on my own body, feeling the benefits and paying attention to its idiosyncrasies, rather than going to a therapist to do it for me.
To get on a roll, the Body Logic Ball (similar to a toy, but denser and stronger) cost $35, in a kit, along with a pump and pinky balls for my feet. The book set me back another $20, and I can get a video if I want, but the total is still less than the cost of one massage. And, I can do this any time I want—or need to! How do you spell relief? Just “roll with it baby!” (496 words)
Get On A Roll!
Roll away discomfort from stress and injury with Body Rolling, a self-massage therapy that eases muscles and minds. Body Rolling is based on yoga principles of stretching, balance and breathing, mixed with deep tissue massage, and even a little meditation. Rolling the spine, joints and muscles over a small, dense, inflated rubber ball, replicates the pressure of a deep tissue massage, relaxing and elongating muscles with therapeutic effects. “The body needs muscles to be free and unrestricted to perform, which requires flexibility and proper alignment,” explains Yamuna Zake, creator of the technique, “Body Rolling is the tool. It removes physical restrictions so that energy can flow unobstructed through the body.”
Zake, a long-time yoga teacher, developed “Body Logic,” a therapy using pressure and traction, to relieve pain from muscle trauma she experienced when giving birth to her daughter. When other therapists failed to help her recover, she used her yoga expertise and understanding of the body, to work on her own muscles. Her therapy was built on the premise that it is natural for the body to seek the length and space that it originally enjoyed, before injury, gravity and daily life, compressed the muscles. That is why Zake refers to the process as “re-educating” the body back to its logical, normal order—hence “Body Logic.” As she explains, “If you work with the intrinsic logical order of the body, it has amazing abilities to heal itself.”
Since she found it effective to use her elbows to apply pressure on her clients, but difficult to do on herself, Zake discovered that leaning into a small, firm ball could mimic the pressure of the massage. Body Rolling became her way of doing therapeutic work on herself, and she then began teaching the method to yoga students and therapists.
In 1967 she published the book, Body Rolling – An Experiential Approach to Complete Muscle Relief (available through Healing Arts Press for $20), and began conducting more workshops in the U.S. and in Europe. Word-of-mouth among body workers spread about this new therapy, and South Florida became a hot bed for Body Rolling, much like New York and California. Once yoga teachers and massage therapists experience the benefits for themselves, they are anxious to become certified and pass the do-it-yourself therapy on to their clients. The number of classes, and students enrolled are rapidly increasing in Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton and Ft. Lauderdale studios. Classes are taught internationally, using several sizes of inflatable balls, including small ones for the feet. (The smaller and denser the ball, the more pressure it creates on the muscles.) A video will also be available in January.
“Body Rolling enables you to get into the muscles and joints,” states, Mary Schroeder, Ft. Lauderdale Body Rolling and yoga teacher, “As you apply pressure and breathe into the ball, it releases tension, creating space and circulation—that’s something everyone can use as an adjunct to their workout, yoga practice, or daily life! It shows the body what it naturally wants to do.”
Body Rolling’s value is long-term, as it becomes a skill that is useful over a lifetime. “It’s not only economical, it’s very liberating, not having to depend on someone else to make you feel better—especially if you’re uncomfortable—you can effect changes in your own body right away,” says Marty Hammerstein, a three-year student of Schroeder’s. “It’s like everything else, the more you do it, the better you get at it!” she adds.